A couple weeks ago I met with a friend who recommended John Newton’s book, “Letters of John Newton.” John Newton was once a strong advocate for the slave trade and lived a deeply immoral life as a sailor. Through the gospel, Jesus saved John Newton and used his life in a remarkable way, setting him apart as a Christian leader in England during a time of revival in the country.
Newton was a diligent writer and wrote voluminously. His letters capture a depth of the gospel, an awareness of the human heart, a compassion for the souls of family and friends, and an insatiable desire to keep his heart and mind on Jesus. What follows are some brief statements taken from some of his letters. My hope is that as you read his words you will be prompted to purchase this book so that you can receive the encouragement and refreshment of soul that I have experienced in working through his letters.
- The necessary practical application of doctrinal truth: “I set no value upon any doctrinal truth, further than it has a tendency to promote practical holiness.”
- The dangers of simply knowing the truth intellectually but not being changed by it: “A man may give his assent to the gospel and be able to defend it against others, and yet not have his own spirit truly influenced by it.
- The power of God to save his brother in law: “I know that nothing is too hard for the Almighty. The same power which humbled me can undoubtedly bring down the most haughty infidel upon earth.”
- The appeal to save his brother-in-law: “May God show you your true self and your true state; then you will attentively listen to what you now disdain to hear of, his goodness in providing redemption and pardon for the chief of sinners, through him who died upon the cross for sins not his own. Keep this letter by you at my request; and when you write, tell me that you receive it in good part and that you still believe me to be your affectionate brother.”
- The qualities of a Christian: “I am persuaded that love and humility are the highest attainments in the school of Christ, and the brightest evidences that He is indeed our Master.”
- Understanding the Bible: “A few minutes of the Spirit’s teaching will furnish us with more real useful knowledge, than toiling through whole folios of commentators and expositors: they are are useful in their places, and are not to be undervalued by those who can perhaps, in general, do better without them; but it will be our wisdom to deal less with the streams, and be more close in applying to the fountain-head. The Scripture itself, and the Spirit of God, are the best and the only sufficient expositors of Scripture.”
- On closeness with Jesus: “Tell those who know what communion with Jesus is worth, that they will never be able to maintain it; if they give way to the workings of pride, jealousy, and anger. This will provoke the Lord to leave them dry, to command the clouds of his grace that they rain no rain upon them.”